Name: Tsering Chonphel
Interview Age: 77
Date of Birth: 1935
Birthplace: Shungpa, Utsang, Tibet
Year Left Tibet: 1959
Profession: Salt Trade, Nomad
Political Prisoner: No
Interview No.: 35D
Location: Mcleod Ganj, Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh, India
Categories: Culture and History
Keywords: childhood memories, escape experiences, Chinese -- first appearance of, herding, refugee in Nepal -- life as, nomadic life, taxes, trade, Utsang, salt trade, songs/opera
Tsering Chonphel fondly remembers his "blissful life" in a beautiful land of snow-covered mountains, huge pasturelands and rivers. He came from a nomadic family with a large number of sheep, goats, yaks and horses. He gives us a glimpse of a nomad's life which required the family to move three times in winter and three times in summer. They lived in a tent made of yak hair and spent their days herding the animals. Tsering Chonphel learned many songs as a child and exhibits a sample by singing a song in praise of the sky, earth and home. He proudly says that he has taught many songs at the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts in Dharamsala, India.
Tsering Chonphel describes the gathering of wool, which was then traded for sugar, apricots and other goods brought by Indian traders. His older brothers also harvested salt and borax from a large lake. The salt was traded in India, while the borax was sent to China. They paid three forms of tax to the Tibetan government, including "tax for cuisine on the table" of the Dalai Lama.
Tsering Chonphel recalls the Chinese first appeared in his region from Xinjiang in 1950. He describes their poor condition and the premonitions of the elders that something bad was going to happen. The Chinese demand on the Tibetans to surrender their weapons prompted the district official to take flight and were joined by the villagers. Tsering Chonphel gives a detailed account the group's difficult journey through the snow to Nepal.
- Marcella Adamski (Interviewer)
- Tenzin Yangchen (Interpreter)
- Pema Tashi (Videographer)